My books are
also available
in eBook and
audio editions


& Speaking

Contact me at

Over The Top Grills

Las Vegas Magazine
June, 2003

by Dave Donelson

Outdoor cookery was born when some clumsy caveman dropped a hunk of brontosaurus into the campfire. His family’s response was probably, “Fire. Meat. Gooood!”

When the caveman moved to the suburbs, his campfire became a three-legged bowl-shaped charcoal grill.  But, just as the caveman evolved into today’s investment banker, the barbeque grill grew up to become a $10,000 outdoor kitchen complete with wok and pizza stone, infrared burners, and a built-in refrigerator with beverage dispenser.

Outdoor GrillThe up-to-the minute outdoor chef in Las Vegas can choose from several monster hibachis that will make him or her the envy of the neighborhood (although hopefully not the bane of the fire department).

Dick Kerner, salesman at Westar Appliance, says the high-end grills offered by Viking, Wolf, Dacor, DCS, and Thermador have some remarkable features. “Most customers are interested in having adequate heat that’s evenly distributed over the cooking surface,” he says. “Many units now come with lined hoods that are almost sealed when they close so that the internal temperature can reach 700 to 800 degrees. At those temps, you can make a heck of a pizza in there.”

Other new features include battery-powered or electrical igniters instead of the old-fashioned piezo, or clicking, igniter. “Some models even have interior lights that only have to be cleaned every three or four uses,” Kerner says. Most manufacturers offer an LP or natural gas option.

One of Westar’s most popular models is a Viking 53-inch cooktop with rotisserie and a colored hood, which is $4,139. Brass trim is only $375 more. A stainless steel wheeled cart is available as an option.

For those who cook a lot of bronto-burgers, Wolf Appliance makes a heavy-duty stainless steel unit equipped with your choice of six or eight grill burners and, if you like, two 16,000-BTU side burners. Just for comparison, a standard kitchen range burner produces 10- to 12,000 BTU’s. The 36- or 48-inch Wolf model includes a 115-volt rotisserie and an infrared rear burner that cooks without preheating.

A significant development in outdoor cookery is infrared heat. Traditional grills cook by convection. The burners heat up a secondary element (briquettes, lava rock, vaporizer plates or rods), which creates radiant energy and heated air.

Infrared burners produce high temperature direct radiant energy. The food is directly heated because there are no secondary elements. The infrared burner produces intense heat that immediately sears the food, reputedly locking in moisture and flavor. The food cooks in its own juices in up to half the time needed by traditional grills.

Major Distributors sells totally infrared grills by Solaire in up to 56-inch widths. Kelly Marrujo, salesman for Major, says, “Solaire’s 42- and 56-inch models feature three direct-fired ceramic gas infrared burners producing 82,500 BTUs of grilling power. Our most popular models are the 30- and 42-inch built-ins. That’s what most builders buy unless their customers entertain a lot, then they go for the 56-inch.” The 42-inch Solaire cooktop lists for $3,545 without accessories.

All the top grill manufacturers offer numerous options and accessories for the griller who wants to have it all. One of Solaire’s most interesting options is a built-in commercial-quality, all-weather 5.6 cu. ft. refrigerator with stainless steel liner and shelves. The caveman may have stored his stegosaurus steak in a handy glacier, but the modern backyard chef can keep his right under the grill. For serious partiers, Viking offers a built-in or freestanding refrigerated beverage dispenser that comes complete with CO2 cylinder and keg coupler.

You can also add a wok to stir fry like a pro. Or a griddle. Why go out to breakfast when you can cook eggs and pancakes in your backyard?  Then there is the steamer for your vegetables or the deep fryer for your French fries. And don’t forget the wood chip smoker so your salmon filets can taste like they were cooked over an open flame. You probably can’t do without a food warmer or a pizza stone. And you absolutely must have a motorized rotisserie—you can get one that handles thirty pounds of meat!

Fortunate is the Valley family who has an outdoor cooking center (what the heck’s a grill, anyway?) and a fire-meister to cook on it. While the rest of us are indoors microwaving our TV dinners this summer, they’ll be outside enjoy grilled portabellas, rotisserie prime rib, crispy hash browns…or maybe seared tuna steaks with stir-fried vegetables…or smoked salmon pizza served with a freshly-drawn tap beer…or….

Fire. Meat. Gooood!

-- End --